Category Archives: Quiz

Four-Letter Bird Codes: What and How

Five 4-letter bird codes. What birds do these represent?
Five 4-letter bird codes. What birds do these represent?

GWFG and SNGO at Pymatuning, Crawford county

That’s a bird report headline from PABIRDS, February 7, 2016.  If you’re not familiar with 4-letter bird codes it’s a meaningless message and you wouldn’t know these may be Life Birds.  (Fortunately the names are inside the report.)

Few birds have short names so abbreviations come in handy when you’re writing down a lot of them … as we’re doing today for the Great Backyard Bird Count.  The U.S. Bird Banding Laboratory (BBL) ran into this problem early on and made a standardized list of 4-letter codes for birds in North America based on their complete English names.  The coding scheme works roughly like this.

  • 4 words in name: First letter of each word.  Greater white-fronted goose = GWFG
  • 3 words in name:  First letter of first 2 words + 2 letters of the last word. Great horned owl = GHOW, Red-eyed vireo = REVI.
    EXCEPT if the last two words are hyphenated.  I always get this wrong! It’s the reverse of the rule above and there aren’t many names that fit this pattern.  Rule is: First 2 letters of first word + first letters of last 2 words:

    • Eastern screech-owl = EASO
    • Eastern wood-pewee = EAWP
  • 2 words: First 2 letters of each word.  Snow goose = SNGO, American robin = AMRO
  • 1 word: First 4 letters. Sora = SORA, Brambling = BRAM
  • Collisions: Sometimes two bird names result in the same code as in BTGW for both the Black-throated green warbler and Black-throated gray warbler.  In this case, look up the code using the links below.

Here’s the complete alphabetic list developed by The Institute for Bird Populations.  For a better explanation of the coding scheme, see this page on the Carolina Bird Club website.

Now that you know how to decipher the codes, here’s a quiz.

What five birds are named in the image above?

Leave a comment with your answer.

 

(illustration by Kate St. John)

A Starburst Of …

What is this?
What is this?

Today, a quiz!  What is this?

Hints:

  • Six of us found these unusual starbursts sticking out of the ground at Wolf Creek Narrows, Lawrence County, Pennsylvania on October 14.
  • The starburst measures 1.25 inches across.
  • The stalk stands a foot tall.
  • There are no leaves on the stalk nor at the base of the stalk.
  • Each tip ends in a shiny black bead. (Some of the beads fell off my specimen.)
  • A Google image search on this photo results in pictures of jewelry.  🙂

Bonus Question:  What U.S. city is named for this plant?

Leave a comment with your answer.  After you’ve had a chance to vote I’ll post the answer in the Comments.

 

(photo by Kate St. John)

Miniature Mesa

Miniature mesa A (photo by Kate St. John)

Here’s a Monday quiz to exercise your brain.

I found this miniature mesa in Schenley Park last week.

Do you know what it is?

Which side is up?

Miniature mesa B (photo by Kate St. John)

Here’s a more complex formation.

A unch of mini-mesas in winter (photo by Kate St. John)

So … what they are?

Leave a comment with your answer.

 

UPDATE:  I’ve posted the answer in the Comments.

(photos by Kate St. John)

What’s In A Name?

James Bond (ornithologist) and screenshot from James Bond 007 Dr.No (images from Wikimedia Commons)

Question:  What do these two people have in common?  On the left, a real person. On the right, the symbol for a fictional one.

Answer:  They have the same name and there’s a bird connection.

Birders, did you know…?

The person on the left is ornithologist James Bond.  Born in Philadelphia in 1900 he was the curator of ornithology at the Academy of Natural Sciences and the preeminent authority on birds of the Caribbean.  His definitive field guide, Birds of the West Indies, was first published in 1936.  Updated over the years, it was the only field guide devoted to Caribbean birds until 1998.  Click here to read more about the real James Bond.

Ian Fleming, author of the James Bond 007 books, was an avid birder and writer who spent every January and February writing novels at his villa in Jamaica.  Of course he had a copy of James Bond’s field guide to help him identify local birds.  When he needed a name for his 007 hero he chose James Bond because it was “brief, unromantic, Anglo-Saxon, and yet very masculine – just what I needed.”

Fleming received James Bonds’ permission to use his name and they later met in person.  Fleming also connected birds and Bond by placing many bird references in Dr. No  including a guano (bird poop) mine and a bird sanctuary for roseate spoonbills.  Click here to read about the 007 connection.

How did I find this out?  When I returned from my Caribbean trip last month, Tony Bledsoe told me about the two James Bonds.

 

Thanks to Wikipedia, the source of this information. Note the copyright information below:
* photo of James Bond the ornithologist in 1974 from Wikimedia Commons. Click here to see the original.
* Screenshot from the Dr. No trailer, James Bond 007, from Wikimedia Commons. Click here to see the original and its rights information

Quiz: Which Ones Are Ungulates?

Deer eats snow (photo from Wikimedia Commons)

While writing about elk, I wanted to use the word ungulate so I looked up how to spell it.  I learned more than I bargained for … and ultimately didn’t use the word.

Ungulates are mammals with hooves, right?  Well, some are obvious, some are not.  Here’s a quiz to test your knowledge.

Which of these animals are ungulates?

A.  Deer (photo above):

B.  Horse:
Nokota horses (photo from Wikimedia Commons)

C.  Llama
Llama (photo from Wikimedia Commons)

D. Leopard:
Leopard on a tree (photo from Wikimedia Commons)

E. Hippopotamus:
Hippopotamus (photo from Wikimedia Commons)

F. Porpoise:
Harbor porpoise (photo from Wikimedia Commons)

 

Leave a comment with your answer.

If you’re stumped, I’ll post the answer in the comments later.

Can’t wait for the answer?  Click here. No cheating!

 

p.s. See the comments for an explanation about the oddest ungulates.

(All photos from Wikimedia Commons. Click the image to see the original.)

Last Month Of Summer

Common nighthawk closeup (photo by Dan Arndt)

August. The last month of summer.  School starts next week in Pittsburgh.

This bird knows summer is almost over.  By the end of the month he’ll leave for South America.

Do you know who he is?  Do you know why he leaves so soon?

 

(photo by Dan Arndt, Creative Commons license on Flickr.  Click on the image to see the original.  Dan lives in Calgary and writes for two blogs: Birds Calgary and Bird Canada.)

p.s. Check the comments for the answer.

Detective Work

Perfoliate, alternate, entire (photo by Kate St. John)

Today we’ll have a plant identification quiz.  I have an answer but you may have a better one.

I found this plant on June 29 at Dead Man’s Hollow in Allegheny County.   The leaves are so distinctive that its identity begs for some detective work.  Here are the clues I gathered:

Leaves:

  • alternate on the stem,
  • edges are entire (not toothed),
  • leaves are perfoliate.  (The stem perforates the leaves, a very cool feature.)
  • bottom leaves are larger than the violet leaves nearby.

The plant had no flowers and no buds.  Instead it had developing fruits which gave me clues about the flowers.  Here are two photos of the fruits.

Developing fruit, 3-sided with 6 sections (photo by Kate St. John)

 

Developing fruit, 3-sided with 6 sections (photo by Kate St. John)

The fruits are:

  • on stems that sprout from perfoliate spots on the leaves
  • three sided with a seam in the middle of each side.  Does this mean the flower was three-petaled or six-petaled?
  • still maturing?  Or are they in their final form?

I looked up “six petals with alternate, entire leaves” in my Newcomb’s Wildflower Guide and found a familiar spring wildflower with perfoliate leaves.

However, I am not completely satisfied with my identification.  I have never seen “my plant” arc horizontally like this when it’s blooming and the fruits in the illustration look different.  Is my Newcomb’s Guide missing a species?  Have I never noticed that the plant “lies down” in the summer?  Are the fruits going to match the illustration when they mature in a few weeks?

So here’s the quiz:  What plant is this?

Leave a comment with your answer.  I’ll post my guess after I’ve heard from you.

UPDATE:  See the Comments for the answer and a link to the flowering version of this plant.

 

(photos by Kate St. John)

What Made This Tree Fall Over?

Black cherry tree toppled at Schenley Park, 30 May 2014 (photo by Kate St. John)

When I see a tree snapped in half like this I have to ask: What made this tree fall over?

I did some detective work .  Here are the clues:

  • The tree is a black cherry (Prunus serotina)
  • It was alive when it fell.  It grew leaves this spring so the structural weakness wasn’t evident until the tree broke.
  • This is the only broken tree at this location in Schenley Park.  Even if a strong wind snapped the trunk it wasn’t strong enough to damage other trees.
  • The trunk is not hollow inside the break though there are air gaps between the light outer wood and dark inner core.
  • There’s a white flaky fungus inside the trunk that coats the light wood layers.
  • Did the white stuff weaken the trunk?  Is it responsible for the break?

The trunk isn’t hollow, but…
Black cherry break, 30 May 2014 (photo by Kate St. John)

Here’s a close look at the white flaky fungus.  It reminds me of the white correction tape I use on paper.
White flaky fungus. What is it? (photo by Kate St. John)

What do you think? Is this the reason the tree fell over?

Leave a comment with your answer.

Thanks!

(photos by Kate St. John)

UPDATE with the answer!   The white fungus is a species of Armillaria or honey fungus.  (See Maureen Hobma’s comment below.)   I wrote about Armillaria on 16 January 2014 because it’s the largest living organism. Up until now, I had only seen Armillaria‘s black rope-y strands and honey mushrooms.  The white fungal sheets are newer growth, the mycelium.  It can be bio-luminescent!   I learn something new every day.